“Every generation gets turned on to it, in some way,” drummer Greg Errico says about the music he made with Sly & the Family Stone four decades ago. “And people will forget the crashes-and-burns. It just finds its way out of the dark and lives in the light again.”
Three generations of fans of the Family Stone’s powerful and often funky approach to rock convene at Yoshi’s San Francisco this week to enjoy the latest iteration of the band, led by the now middle-aged Jerry Martini, its original saxophone player, and featuring Errico and Cynthia Robinson, the still-dynamic original trumpeter.
Missing and long hidden from the public eye is Sly Stone, born in Denton, Texas, in 1943 and raised in Vallejo. He launched the Family Stone in the basement of his parents’ house in the Ingleside district of San Francisco in December 1966, and led them through a series of national best-selling albums and singles, from “Dance to the Music” in 1968 to “If You Want Me to Stay” in 1973.
In addition to turning on countless rock ’n’ roll musicians (including Stevie Wonder, Prince and John Legend) to the rhythm and juice of funk, Sly & the Family Stone embodied flower power ideals in their integrated ensemble — male and female, black and white — matched by the consciousness-raising lyrics of songs such as “Love City,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” “Everyday People” and “Stand!”
Drugs and other bad habits, and bad business, drove Sly into several decades of seclusion and made it tough for the others to sustain their own musical careers.
But in recent years, Jerry Martini has filled out his new Family Stone with younger musicians based in Las Vegas who, as Cynthia Robinson puts it, “love the music, grew up with it, heard it when they were kids, and that’s what made them want to play music.”
Martini, who’s now helping raise his youngest child in Folsom (Robinson and Errico are also involved in family life in Sacramento and Petaluma, respectively), says the Family Stone’s golden oldies have been kept new by frequent use in movies and advertising, as well as CD reissues by Columbia Records of all the original LPs.
But Errico wants to keep the music live, and hopes in 2011 “to play festivals and to younger generations, instead of just doing casinos and clubs. That’s where the music lived, if you look at Woodstock and festivals we did [in the ’60s and ’70s]. The music was designed for that, because it had a message and a purpose, and those messages are still valuable.”
IF YOU GO
The Family Stone
Where: Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today, 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday
Tickets: $20 to $26
Contact: (415) 655-5600, www.yoshis.com